The chairman of Gov. Bobby Jindal's Streamlining Commission says there's still a lot of work to do to prepare the state for future billion-dollar shortfalls, and he promises the devil will be in the details. But, says state Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, he's got the Big Picture figured out. Donahue says Louisiana's fiscal problems arise mostly from out-of-control spending and a lack of long-term vision. "When spending, we do so without clear overall objectives," Donahue explains, "and when cutting, we do so across the board with little to no thought given to the state's priorities." The Streamlining Commission is not looking at higher education; that's the charge of another commission on the House side. Donahue's group has five subcommittees he calls "Tiger Teams" that review information technology, civil service and group benefits, efficiency and benchmarking, elimination of duplication and nonessential services, and outsourcing and privatization of services.
Meanwhile, Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, notes a transportation study group suggestion to increase the state tax on gasoline, which is now 20 cents per gallon. The tax, which in part funds highway infrastructure projects, hasn't risen since 1984 — but already there is opposition from Republicans. "Raising any taxes during a recession is just unwise, to say the least," Pearson says. "To stimulate the growth of state revenue we must enact policies that promote economic development, not more taxes that take money from the pockets of consumers and into the black hole of the state highway infrastructure program." Pearson says the study group also proposed the possibility of toll roads and public-private partnerships to finance highway projects. Such arrangements have already benefited projects in Lafayette, Lafourche and Jefferson parishes. "That is an alternative that is worthy of additional consideration and exploration," Pearson says. "Public-private partnerships often provide the necessary jump-start for projects that would otherwise be delayed or, worse, never get off the ground at all." — Jeremy Alford